In the last few weeks, we’ve seen almost daily press reports of new lawsuits against media companies being sued for the use of photos on their websites without permission of the photographers. We’ve written many times about copyright issues that can arise if media companies put content on their website without getting permission of the copyright holder. Most recently, we wrote about the legal issues that can arise by taking photos or videos from Internet sites and reposting them to your own site, or using them in on-air productions. We’ve also written articles about how your ASCAP, BMI and SESAC license don’t give you rights to use music in video productions or to post online music that can be accessed in any on-demand fashion – so that such rights have to be cleared directly with copyright holders for such uses – including the use of music in podcasts. Even though these concerns exist, some copyright holders have been reluctant to sue, as litigation over these matters sometimes costs more than the likely recovery (though broadcasters, too, are concerned about litigation as the costs of defending against such a lawsuit can be very high). One idea has been kicking around for a long time – some sort of small claims court for resolving smaller copyright claims at less cost to the parties. Last month, a bill was introduced in Congress to create such a court – a new Copyright Claims Board.
The bill was sponsored by a single Congressman, and has thus far received the support of only a single co-sponsor. Given the time left in the current Congressional session, it would be unlikely to go any further this year. But with a promised examination of the Copyright Act generally on tap for the next Congress, some part, or all, of this proposal might again see the light of day next year. For a bill sponsored by a single Congressman, introduced late in the Congressional session with little time for approval, the bill is actually quite detailed, setting out a complete structure for the new court, as well as specific procedures that would be followed by any copyright owner seeking to adjudicate their claims through this new process.
Continue Reading Congressional Proposal for Copyright Small Claims Court – What Does It Suggest?